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Disturbing Owls

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Old Thursday 19th February 2004, 15:27   #1
streatham
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Disturbing Owls

Sorry if this topic has been covered before. I have been reading with interest some opinions on local websites about birders disturbing owls. It seems that some birders are fairly pissed off with the activities of other birders when they go out hunting for roosting owls. There seems to be an argument that a lot of the time birders seem to forget about the welfare of the birds in order to get that 'all important' year tick. At the same time I have also heard other birders say that it's no big deal - if the owls were really bothered by the intrusion why would they keep coming back to the same roost sites - they could always move to a more inaccessible spot.

My local Rare Bird Alert doesn't report owls (apart from diurnal ones) although the ones in local states often do. Just wondered whether owls get reported on the UK versions of the bird alerts and whether people felt that the disturbance does the birds any real harm.

Luke
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Old Thursday 19th February 2004, 15:36   #2
Darren Oakley-Martin
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I'm unsure on this one, and like Luke, would appreciate others' views.

I have 'called in' owls by making vague squeeky-vole like noises and had Tawnys looking at me from a branch a few feet away, but not in the breeding season, and for me, that is the key point.

When the birds need all of their energies for hunting to feed the owlets, (let alone to feed themselves), I think it's disgraceful that their energies should be taken up in other ways by putting themselves on view, all for the sake of a 'tick.'
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Old Thursday 19th February 2004, 17:39   #3
StevieEvans
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Angry Boiled Blood..............

Hello Luke & Darren.

I could write a book on Owls, unfortunately it would HAVE to be Entitled :-

"Owls that birders have scarred off"

To me this issue illustrates ONLY TOO WELL the VAST Difference & Distance between a "Bird Watcher/Bird Lover "(Myself included) AND a "Birder"/Bird Ticker".

I have very many 'sites' for all 5 species of English Owls, and Nowadays let hardly anyone Know about them.

Here, The worst affected is almost allways the poor Long-eared, they realy do get some 'stick' chased from bush to bush, tree to tree, especially at the Beginning of each New Year.............(tick-tick)


# One particular case was a very productive breeding pair of Long-eared's whose nesting thicket also held numbers of wintering birds.

Word sharp spread & the numbers of birders caused the rather dubious landowner to dis-suade the pairs of peering eyes from looking over his property by cutting down a large number of semi-mature Thorn bushes.

This resulted in major disruption to the breeding pair & wintering birds.

A sad tale, you may think...?
But the MOST Annoying thing was that prior to all the disturbance, i was able to watch that Breeding pair from the comfort of my car at very close range.
I had masses of excellent observations & fieldwork, even watched the pair copulating.

I have numerous 'other' pairs of Leo's, but that location was a one-off & an excellent oppurtunity for detailed study.

ALL RUiNED BY INEPT & INNCONSiDERATE BiRDERS !!

So You can see where i stand on this issue........!!!!!!!!!!!

StevieE.
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Old Thursday 19th February 2004, 18:32   #4
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The main problems at Marton Mere of late have been due to photographers getting too close. When I found the first one of this season (whilst jogging!) I did wonder what to for the best, discussed it with others and we agreed that the behaviour of a tiny minority shouldn't spoil it for everyone else. Although a photographer did cause the birds to move roost they soon settled in another spot, and I think the great enjoyment they have offered hundreds of visiting birders since then suggests we made the right decision.

In terms of Darren's distinction between the breeding season and other times of year I think disturbance in hard winter weather can be just as damaging as in the summer.

Stephen.
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Old Thursday 19th February 2004, 19:36   #5
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Hi Stephen - I'm tending to agree with you and the other comments that have been made so far - at the moment we have had almost constant snow cover for a few weeks and amazingly low temps - surely not great times for owls to be wasting much needed energy reserves and yet still i see birders in NYC getting within 5ft of roosting leo's - and taking flash pictures - is it really necessary i ask myself? I have heard similar reports from other birders in other well known owl locations.
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Old Thursday 19th February 2004, 23:43   #6
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To any Genuine person, the Welfare of the Bird/Owl Should Allways Come First.

S
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Old Friday 20th February 2004, 09:14   #7
Darren Oakley-Martin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen Dunstan
The main problems at Marton Mere of late have been due to photographers getting too close. When I found the first one of this season (whilst jogging!) I did wonder what to for the best, discussed it with others and we agreed that the behaviour of a tiny minority shouldn't spoil it for everyone else. Although a photographer did cause the birds to move roost they soon settled in another spot, and I think the great enjoyment they have offered hundreds of visiting birders since then suggests we made the right decision.

In terms of Darren's distinction between the breeding season and other times of year I think disturbance in hard winter weather can be just as damaging as in the summer.

Stephen.
Yes, you're right Stephen. It struck me last night that my actions were 'unhelpful' to owls throughout the year, not just during the breeding season. I shall cease to be a vole-impersonator forthwith.

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Old Friday 20th February 2004, 17:51   #8
streatham
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Now I feel bad Darren I wasn't trying to insist that people virtually stop looking for owls, i've been on bird counts and taken part while other much better birders than I played tapes etc and never said anything to them - I was just interested in what people felt were acceptable limits.
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Old Wednesday 25th February 2004, 19:22   #9
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Hmm. Somewhere in a different section of these forums I posted a thing about Saw-whet Owls. I was answering a question about finding them.

I wondered afterward whether my posting might do more good or more harm. It's here, if you want to check it out: http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=13121

-- Eleventh (I think) down, under "oh man, there are some common birds that always allude me!"

I'll delete it if you think it's potentially harmful.

Apart from that, I have these points:

(1) Barred Owls are very, very receptive to taped calls. (They readily respond to human calls, plus they'll check out Saw-whet calls too.) During a 1977 study, when we realized how easily Barred Owls could be called in, we stopped using tapes; and in the study results I warned against calling the owls in. I said it was a form of harassment.

(2) Calling in ANY species might be harassment. Generally, here is my suggested best-single-criteria for a completed bird study: "The birds never knew we did the study."

(3) Apparently there is a documented case, quickly becoming famous in Canada, of an owl's retina being damaged by camera flashes at very close range. The owl, its sight impaired, died because it could no longer hunt properly. The damage to the retina was assessed in the autopsy.

Last edited by Carson : Wednesday 25th February 2004 at 19:29.
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Old Wednesday 25th February 2004, 22:53   #10
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Carson, I think you can stop beating yourself up. I saw nothing wrong with your post. It is up to each individual to use common sense in not stressing the bird. For those with no common sense, I can only hope that others will point this out to them gently. Sometimes it is just sheer ignorance. Other times it is the need to "must get that photo" mentality. The latter upsets me when I come across it.
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Old Wednesday 25th February 2004, 22:54   #11
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there's a long yeared owls' roost right in town. it's in a relatively quiet neighbourhood (no trucks and buses but pedestrians and cars are regular). they've been going to those conifer trees for years now and nothing seems to deter them. apparently they have even stuck it out while major construction work has been going on just across the street from where they roost. not a lot of people know about them tho - they are not really obvious to spot ( u have to crane yr neck uo 2 see them and most passers by dont do that habitually).
so it's mostly students of ornithology who go to stare up at them with binoculars a few times per winter that disturb them. really beauiful creatures (the owls, not the students).
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Old Thursday 26th February 2004, 10:33   #12
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onebluemammal:

Like many species, where they are more common they become far less fussy about where they settle and what disturbs them. LEOs are constantly under pressure in a lot of areas in England - even places with a relatively strong population can decline dramatically. But I remember a park in Trebon (Czech Rep) where the LEOs were flying about in the early evening and there were several nests including one directly above a busy path and cycleway. Terrific stuff!
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